Characters who inspired The Ambition & Destiny Series

Information on this page has previously been included in The Ambition & Destiny Newsletter.

Old photographs can be a great source of inspiration and fascination when looking at family history research. I have a number of old photographs, but as photography was in its infancy when the series started, most of the images relate to Parts 4 and 5 of the series; Only One Winner and Different World.

The oldest I have is of my great, great, grandfather – the character who inspired William Jackson. Sadly, that means I don’t have any pictures of his wife (who inspired the role of
Harriet), nor do I have pictures of Mary or Mr Wetherby, which is a real disappointment as I would have loved to know more about them.

I do, however, have pictures of all William and Harriet’s children, which will be added below as each newsletter is released.

William Jackson

The first picture is of William Jackson – Mary’s son.

Based on what I know of his life, and given the fact he looks fairly ‘well nourished’, I suspect this photograph was taken in about 1887/1888. That’s perhaps not surprising until I mention that in 1888 he was only 47 years old!

When I first looked at the picture, I would have guessed he was in his seventies but as those of you who have read the books will know, that couldn’t have been the case.

Doesn’t it go to show how much earlier people aged back then? Certainly, they had much harder lives and obviously it showed.

William-Wetherby Jackson

The picture shown here is of William and Harriet’s eldest son; William-Wetherby Jackson in the books.

I think you’ll agree he seems to have been a very dapper gentleman with his well groomed hair and moustache, not to mention the bow tie! I imagine this reflects the lifestyle he was accustomed to in Birmingham.

Having said that, based on the age he looks in the photograph, I would say the photograph must have been taken while he was in Liverpool. At a guess, I would say sometime between 1908-1910.

Despite everything that happened once he arrived in Liverpool, it suggests that he wanted to keep up appearances, something I imagine became more difficult as time went on. It doesn’t surprise me though. My grandfather (a son of William-Wetherby) very much had the same outlook. I don’t think I ever saw him in anything less than his best clothes. It makes me smile just thinking of him.

Eleanor Jackson

Eleanor was the eldest daughter of William and Harriet and sister of William-Wetherby.

If you’ve read the books, you may remember she was portrayed as the one who really kept the family together after the events of Only One Winner.

As I mentioned in the story, by 1891 she had become a private governess and looking at the picture, I must say, that doesn’t surprise me.

Even in real life, I think she was the one who kept all the siblings and their families connected. We did find her name in an address book of an elderly aunt of mine, but sadly by the time we realised my aunt knew her, it was too late to ask any questions.

Charles Jackson

There are a number of characters called Charles Jackson in the series, but this is the one who was a son of William and Harriet and brother to William-Wetherby.

I believe this picture was taken at the end of 1911 or early 1912 and I think you’ll agree that Charles looks like a very handsome young man; not quite the disruptive influence I made him out to be in the book.

The reason I portrayed him as I did was because I know he left home at a young age to go into the merchant navy and that while he was away, and also in the years following the end of the books, he ran into quite a lot of trouble.

Many people have asked if there will be any more books to continue the series. At the moment I can’t say for certain, but if there is, it is almost certain to follow Charles who goes back to sea shortly after the end of the story. I think (but can’t yet be sure) that his wife Rose followed him, which makes me wonder what prompted it. I still need to do quite a lot of research into what happened to them, but if they have a story to tell, then you’ll be the first to hear about it.

Bella Jackson

Born in Liverpool in 1866, Bella is the leading lady in Part 5: Different World.

At the start of the book, she was twenty-four years old and lived with her ‘mam’ (Mrs Booth) in a small terraced house with the two small boys they cared for.

Two women living on their own would have been very difficult and I imagine they would have faced challenges on a daily basis. To make ends meet, Bella worked as a milliner (ladies’ hat maker) while Mrs Booth was a seamstress. In addition, they rented out their spare bed room to help pay the bills.

I believe this portrait was taken around 1894 when she would have been twenty eight years old. At the time of the picture, she would have been married with a young son. She possibly may have been expecting her second child depending on when in the year the picture was taken. I imagine that at this point in time, she was fairly happy with her lot.

Florence Jackson

Florence was the youngest daughter of William (top picture) and Harriet. She was born in 1878, during Part 3: When Time Runs Out, but only became a ‘main’ character in Part 5: Different World.

Of all the characters in the story, I think she possibly had the saddest life. After the death of her parents, she spent years living with relatives until finally, at the age of twenty-nine she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital just outside Liverpool.

The picture shown here, was taken when she was moved to the hospital in Kent (in the South-East of the UK). I couldn’t get to the bottom of why she was moved, but a librarian suggested that I needed to follow the money.

She suggested that the Liverpool hospital wouldn’t pay for her accommodation and so she was moved back to the area she had come from. Sadly, it sounds plausible. Despite everything that happened to her, in the end I think she was largely oblivious to reality and according to her medical records was actually quite happy in her own way. I like to think there’s some truth in that.